Coaches can have a big impact on the way players deal with the fears that can arise from sporting competitions. Every competition has an outcome. But, focusing on an outcome before the competition is over means that players are not focused on the immediate challenges of game play. Coaches can improve team performance and increase the chances of a win by keeping their players focused. However, there are five easy ways to help players lose this focus and start focusing on the fear of failure. These include:
- Make a Game's Outcome Do or Die - Every game is going to have a winner and a loser. If players are thinking about the end of the game, they are not thinking about playing the game.
- Sharply Punish Failures - When players know that their mistakes will bring about a harsh penalty, their performances will often be motivated by images of failure rather than by images of success. Unfortunately, outcomes often follow these images.
- Don't Acknowledge Player Concerns - Players know when they are playing in a big game. If coaches don't help shape the way that players think about these games, then players will shape their own thoughts and often with an excessive fear of failure.
- Overemphasize Opponents - All teams are capable of being beaten. But, some are much more difficult than others. Elevating the stature of opponents can give players additional fears of embarrassment and humiliation beyond the normal fear of defeat.
- Give Players a Larger Purpose - When audiences for games include more than just family members, it is easy to remind players that they are playing for their school, their organization or for some more significant purpose than the game itself. This takes a player's attention outside the boundaries of the game and into the stands.
Though most coaches have often played in big games, it is easy to forget that most youth players have not. When coaches help keep players focused on the game, they are giving them the best chances of success and the best tools for minimizing fear.